After a two-week hiatus due to the MLB playoffs, “Fringe” returns with “Earthling,” a creepy and entertaining episode that gives us insight to one of the secondary characters in the series.
While “Earthling” deals with a literal shadow figure that turns humans into ash, the connection this case has with Agent Phillip Broyles’ past is what makes as entertaining as it is. While the revelations aren’t mind-blowing and are, in fact, fairly obvious, it’s just nice to see Lance Reddick, who plays Broyles, get the screen time he deserves in a worthwhile tale.
Anybody who has seen Reddick in “The Wire” as Cedric Daniels knows what kind of presence he brings whenever he is onscreen. His deep voice, tall stature and menacing stare make him perfect for any role where he’s the one in command, making the tough decisions, but he is still a good enough actor to pull off some of the lighter or even subdued scenes.
This week’s episode starts off with a man in his home, preparing a surprise for his and his wife’s anniversary. After the electricity goes haywire, a shadow figure emerges. The next time we see this man, he is sitting on a chair in his home, and when his wife goes to touch him, his body disintegrates as if burned into ash. What was great about this was how well the effects were done. The shadow’s victims actually kept their body structure perfectly, and only when they were touched would their bodies break up into ash.
As mentioned before, this is Broyles’ episode, so when fringe division is called in, he remembers this M.O. from years before. After digging up the old case information, we find out that the only way to stop this guy from killing again is to figure out a complex formula that the FBI hadn’t been able to years before. Thankfully, they have Walter now.
It was a bit strange for Olivia and Peter to be in so few scenes this week, but if they really want to expand the cast, this was a good way of doing so. Everyone has their favorite side characters in a show who never seem to get the back story the fans want. There are still plenty of unanswered questions about Broyles’ past and connections with Nina Sharp from Massive Dynamic.
As far as standalone episodes go, this was one of the better ones this season. As the complaint has been before, the show is truly wonderful when focused on the overlying plot of parallel universes and imminent, cross-worlds war, but merely good otherwise. At least this episode gives us some information on an underused character.